Non-profit

Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL)

Website:

www.techandciviclife.org

Location:

CHICAGO, IL

Tax ID:

47-2158694

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $1,044,134
Expenses: $841,577
Assets: $795,279

Formation:

2012

Type:

Center-Left Election Reform Advocacy Group

Founders:

Tiana Epps-Johnson

Donny Bridges

Whitney May

The Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) is a Chicago, Illinois-based center-left election reform advocacy group formed in 2012. The organization pushes for left-of-center voting policies and election administration. It has a wide reach into local elections offices across the nation and is funded by many left-of-center funding organizations such as the Skoll Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation. [1] [2] [3]

Tiana Epps-Johnson, Donny Bridges, and Whitney May, the founders of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, were co-workers at the New Organizing Institute (NOI) for several years before the organization dissolved in 2015. [4] NOI, described by a Washington Post reporter as “the Democratic party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry,” was a major training center for left-of-center digital activists over the decade of its existence. [5] Additionally, a few members of CTCL’s board of directors have strong ties to Democratic political operations, notably Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the elections program at Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, and Cristina Sinclaire, who was previously employed by NOI as well as by the progressive data service Catalist. [6]

Background

The Center for Technology and Civic Life was founded in 2012 by Tiana Epps-Johnson, Whitney May, and Donny Bridges. The three co-founders have a long history in election policy with May being a former election official. The goal of the organization at its founding was to use data to streamline election administration and increase turnout in American elections. The organization has several programs and initiatives focused on election data and outreach to local election officials. [7]

Activity

The Center for Technology and Civic Life has two main programming areas: “civic data” (a term it uses for election and candidate information), and training for election officials. CTCL has assembled resources to collect data from nearly every local election office; covering candidates on the ballot for each race, information describing those offices, and contact information for elected officials. The organization boasts that more than 250 million voters have accessed its data and that CTCL acts as a major supplier of ballot data for tech giants Facebook and Google. Additionally, Rock the Vote, the Women Donors Network, and the Voting Information Project have all used data provided by CTCL. [8]

The Center for Tech and Civic Life also hosts an annual conference for election officials and left-of-center election policy activists. Left-leaning advocacy organizations represented at the CTCL’s 2019 conference included the Democracy Fund, e.thePeople/League of Women Voters, Metric Geometry & Gerrymandering Group, We Vote, MapLight, Democracy Works, and the National Institute on Money in Politics. [9]

The center has a network of hundreds of election offices across the nation and works to train election officials. CTCL provides courses to election offices and travels to offices (for a fee of $5,000) to help local officials collect data, build websites, and develop messages to motivate voters. The center also operates ElectionTools.org, which provides free templates and forms for use by election officials. [10]

2020 COVID-19 Pandemic

The Center for Technology and Civic Life has been active in the wake of the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic as part of an effort by the Democracy Fund to move voting in 2020 to mail-in elections. CTCL has held remote trainings and provides resources on voting by mail for election officials. [11]

In August, 2020, CTCL announced that it had donated $6.3 million to five cities in Wisconsin, a swing state in the upcoming  election. The organization explained that the funds are meant to ensure Wisconsin has a “safe, inclusive, and secure election.” [12] CTCL recommended the recipient cities to “Encourage and Increase Absentee Voting,” “Dramatically Expand Strategic Voter Education & Outreach Efforts, Particularly to Historically Disenfranchised Residents,” “Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training and Safety Efforts,” and “Ensure Safe and Efficient Election Day Administration.” [13]

In the same press release, the Center for Tech and Civic Life announced it was creating a “COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program” to provide similar safety measures across the country, which include drive-thru voting options, funds for voting facilities to hire additional staff, and expansions to the vote by mail system. [14] CTCL noted that it will prioritize certain recipients, especially those that fall under two categories: one being jurisdictions that are required to provide language assistance and have a higher percentage of historically disenfranchised residents, and the other being jurisdictions in states that have recently changed absentee voting laws or rules due to COVID-19. [15]

In August 2020, CTCL gave $10 million to the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s elections office has an annual budget of $12.3 million. [16] CTCL designated the funds for upgrading equipment to process mailed-in votes, setting up 15 election offices for “in-person early voting using mail ballots,” opening 800 polling places in the city, installing at least 15 drop boxes for mail ballots in the city, and giving poll staffers bonuses for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania, like Wisconsin, is a swing state with many potential Democratic voters, and CTCL gave this grant a few months before the 2020 presidential election.

CTCL gave an additional $2.2 million to Delaware County. In the summer of 2020, CTCL gave out a total of $15 million in grants. This is significantly more than what CTCL’s average annual budget was in previous years, which was around $1 million. [17] There is no public indication of where that money came from.

On September 1, 2020, founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced they were donating $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life and $50 million to the Center for Election Innovation & Research. [18] Shortly after, CTCL stated its plans to regrant the money to local election jurisdictions across the United States to help them process mailed-in ballots and meet sanitation requirements imposed on polling stations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. [19]

Funding and Support

Besides the large sum Zuckerberg and Chan gave to CTCL, the organization has received financial and other assistance from several center-left foundations and advocacy organizations.

In April 2020 the Skoll Foundation awarded CTCL a $1.5 million grant. [20] And for donation years 2015 through 2017 the charitable recordkeeping service FoundationSearch reports more than $1.3 million in total donations to CTCL from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as at least $690,000 from the Democracy Fund to CTCL, and another $10,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to CTCL. [21]

On its “Key Funders and Partners” web page, the Center for Tech and Civic Life also credits these organizations as having “supported” its work:[22]

Leadership

Tiana Epps-Johnson is the founder, executive director, and president of the Center for Tech and Civic Life. Before joining the Center, she was the election administration director of the New Organizing Institute from 2012 to 2015. The New Organizing Institute was a major training center for left-of-center digital activists from its founding in 2005 to its dissolution in 2015. Epps-Johnson had also worked at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, helping with its Voting Rights Project. [23] She also sits on CTCL’s board of directors.

Whitney May is the co-founder and director of CTCL’s government services department. She had previously worked on the Voting Information Project at the New Organizing Institute. [24]

Donny Bridges is the co-founder and director of CTCL’s civic data department. Prior to joining CTCL, he worked as the election administration research director at the New Organizing Institute from 2012 to 2015. [25]

The Center for Tech and Civic Life’s board of directors includes Pam Anderson, the owner of the nonprofit management consulting firm Consilium Colorado; Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the elections program at Pierre Omidyar‘s Democracy Fund, a left-of-center policy foundation; Sureel Sheth, vice president of JMI Equity in San Diego, a growth equity firm; and Cristina Sinclaire, the senior vice president of Clarity Campaign Labs. Sinclaire previously worked at Catalist, providing data to over 200 progressive organizations, and at the New Organizing Institute, researching voting laws and building data tools. [26]

References

  1. “The Center for Technology and Civic Life”. Democracy Fund. Accessed May 11, 2020.  https://www.democracyfund.org/portfolio/entry/the-center-for-technology-and-civic-life ^
  2. Grego, Suzana. “Skoll Foundation Announces 2020 Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.” Skoll Foundation. April 15, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020. https://skoll.org/2020/04/15/skoll-foundation-announces-2020-awards-for-social-entrepreneurship-clone/ ^
  3. Data compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted May 19, 2020. ^
  4. “Our Team.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/. ^
  5. Fung, Brian. “Inside the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for Digital Wizardry,” April 24, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/07/08/inside-the-democratic-partys-hogwarts-for-digital-wizardry/. ^
  6. “Board of Directors.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/board-of-directors/. ^
  7. “Center for Tech and Civic Life”. Skoll. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://skoll.org/organization/center-for-tech-and-civic-life/ ^
  8. “Civic Data”. Center for Technology and Civic Life. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/our-work/civic-data/ ^
  9. “2019 Attendee Bios” Center for Tech and Civic Life.  Accessed May 11, 2020. https://tiana-eppsjohnson-49eh.squarespace.com/ballot2019/bios ^
  10. “Election officials”. Center for Technology and Civic Life. Accessed May 11, 2020.  https://www.techandciviclife.org/our-work/election-officials/ ^
  11. Roje, Philip. “Virus-Proofing the Vote: Democracy Funders Respond to COVID-19” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/4/1/virus-proofing-the-vote-democracy-funders-respond-to-covid-19 ^
  12. “CTCL Announces COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, August 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/covid-19-rural-grants/. ^
  13. “Non-Profits Providing Vote by Mail Support to City and County Election Offices.” Ballotpedia. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://ballotpedia.org/Non-profits_providing_vote_by_mail_support_to_city_and_county_election_offices. ^
  14. “CTCL Announces COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, August 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/covid-19-rural-grants/. ^
  15. “CTCL Announces COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, August 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/covid-19-rural-grants/. ^
  16. Lai, Jonathan. “Philly Is about to Get $10 Million for Mail Ballot Drop Boxes, Early Voting, and Raises for Poll Workers,” August 26, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/philadelphia-2020-election-funding-20200826.html. ^
  17. Action Network Fund, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990), 2016-2019. ^
  18. Allen, Mike. “Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Invest $300 Million in Election Infrastructure,” September 1, 2020. https://www.axios.com/mark-zuckerberg-priscilla-chan-election-security-a4950a93-2efd-42a6-9d7a-5fcc763f9214.html. ^
  19. CTCLAdmin. “CTCL Receives $250M Contribution to Support Critical Work of Election Officials.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, September 1, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/open-call/. ^
  20. Grego, Suzana. “Skoll Foundation Announces 2020 Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.” Skoll Foundation. April 15, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020. https://skoll.org/2020/04/15/skoll-foundation-announces-2020-awards-for-social-entrepreneurship-clone/ ^
  21. Data compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted August 21, 2020. ^
  22. “Key Funders and Partners.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed May 19, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/key-funders-and-partners/ ^
  23. “Tiana Epps-Johnson.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/tiana-epps-johnson/. ^
  24. “Whitney May.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/whitney-may/. ^
  25. “Donny Bridges.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/donny-bridges/. ^
  26. “Board of Directors.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/board-of-directors/. ^

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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: January - December
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2015

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Jan Form 990 $1,044,134 $841,577 $795,279 $61,760 N $738,060 $304,459 $19 $97,850
    2017 Jan Form 990 $970,937 $1,002,928 $564,557 $84,595 N $272,161 $698,757 $19 $94,004
    2016 Jan Form 990 $1,013,853 $501,900 $552,398 $40,445 N $666,904 $346,942 $7 $83,759 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL)

    233 N MICHIGAN AVE STE 1800
    CHICAGO, IL 60601-5802